By Alan W. Dowd
The Tentacles of Terrorism
In his first official testimony before Congress, CIA Director Porter Goss offered a sobering assessment of the many terrorist threats facing America—and a reminder of a threat that has been pushed to the back-burner in the three-plus years since the war on terror commenced.
Laying out what he called “the greatest challenges we face today,” Goss explained that the CIA is concentrating its efforts on “defeating terrorism, protecting the homeland, stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and drugs, and fostering stability, freedom and peace in the most troubled regions of the world.”
On the “freedom and peace” front, America’s spymaster reminded the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Latin America is entering “a major electoral cycle in 2006,” with elections scheduled for Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela. He labeled Venezuela and Colombia as “potential flashpoints.”
Predictably, he talked at length about al Qaeda and other terrorist networks, warning that it may be only a matter of time before terrorists attempt to use WMDs against the US. He also cautioned against focusing exclusively on al Qaeda or its remaining leaders. Other terror threats include:
· an emerging “Sunni jihadist movement,” including the anti-Coalition terrorists active in Iraq;
· the “Islamic Group” in Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia;
· Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Indonesia;
· Hizballah in and around Israel; and
· FARC in Colombia.
Goss warned that North Korea could resume testing long-range missilery like the TD2, which brings the US within range, “at any time.” Likewise, he called attention to Iran’s nuclear gamesmanship and continued refinement of its own long-range missiles.
Goss then offered a blunt reminder of an old, almost forgotten threat: China. “Beijing’s military modernization and military buildup is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait,” according to Goss. The modernization includes new coastal missile batteries, new blue-water submarines and hardened nuclear forces. These improved capabilities “threaten US forces in the region.” Should Beijing conclude that Taiwan has gone too far down the road of independence, Goss explained, “we believe China is prepared to respond with various levels of force.”
EU: Europe Unprepared
Can you imagine Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD inviting a scholar sympathetic to al-Qaeda to participate in a conference about terrorism on September 12, 2001? Neither can we. Yet that’s essentially what happened a day after the 7/7 attacks on London’s transit system, when the London Metropolitan Police and mayor of London held a conference and shared the dais with an Egyptian-born cleric known to endorse suicide bombings.
This is just one example highlighted in a recent analysis conducted by Radio Free Europe of the tepid, even pathetic, response to terrorism in key parts of Europe. RFE also reported that EU officials had mobilized their anti-terror forces only twice between March 2004 and July 2005—once after the Madrid bombings, once after 7/7. Yet there were 271 acts of terrorism reported in Europe in 2004 alone (and this figure does not include terror attacks in Russia).
Analysis of anti-terror efforts in Europe immediately after September 11, 2001, revealed an “uncoordinated and inadequate” response. Four years later, things are not much better. Spanish officials, hoping to piece together the trail of terror that led to Madrid, report “failures of cooperation…a lack of communication, a lack of coordination and a lack of any broad vision.”
Poison Clouds: The Lingering Stench of Terrorism
Four years later, New Yorkers are still feeling the physical effects of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In February of this year, Dr. Stephen Levin, Medical Director of the Mount SinaiCenter for Occupational & Environmental Medicine, told Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) that “We continue to see people with serious and persistent upper respiratory, lower respiratory, mental health and other effects—even to this day.”
Maloney’s office published data compiled by New York City health officials that found 47 percent of the 61,087 survivors interviewed reporting sinus problems and 42 percent reporting shortness of breath. This largely corroborates findings released during a conference in late 2004 of the American Chemical Society. Newsday published the findings last winter.
Scientists told Newsday that the fires at Ground Zero, which burned until December 2001 and reached temperatures of 1800 degrees, served as a “chemical factory” that actually created new compounds and spewed them into the air of New York and New Jersey. According to ACS scientists, the toxic mix of chemicals and gases created by the collapse of the World Trade Towers was “an unprecedented chemical event.”
California-Davis scientist Thomas Cahill found that air samples taken at Ground Zero almost a month after the attacks were worse those taken during the Kuwaiti oil fires after the first Gulf War.
“We don’t know the long-term, lifetime health consequences,” said Paul Lioy of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey.
Making an Impact: Fans of Islamic Terrorism Fading
A global survey conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals some fascinating (and hopeful) news about terrorism in the Muslim world. According to the poll, “Support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence in defense of Islam has declined significantly.”
· In Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, 15 percent or less “now say such actions are justifiable.”
· In Lebanon, support for terror bombings has plummeted from 73 percent to 39 percent.
· In Pakistan, support has fallen to 25 percent, down from 41 percent in 2004.
· In Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia, “substantial majorities” say bombings against Americans and other Coalition members are not justifiable.
· Support for Osama bin Laden is also waning in some countries, with the terror mastermind losing majority support in Morocco and Indonesia.
The news is also encouraging on the democracy front. According to the Pew study, “Large and growing majorities in Morocco (83 percent), Lebanon (83 percent), Jordan (80 percent) and Indonesia (77 percent)—as well as pluralities in Turkey and Pakistan—say democracy can work well and is not just for the West.” To read the full report, visit pewglobal.org.
As a contributing editor to The American Legion, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.